Monitoring asbestos materials in the workplace

asbestos materials in the workplace.

Current health and safety practices mean that asbestos materials found in the workplace are left alone if they are intact, but arguments have been made for asbestos monitoring practices to be altered.

Given that asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) naturally degrade over time, and many were installed thirty years ago or more, the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres could increase the longer they remain in place.

So how are asbestos materials currently monitored, and could more be done to protect health and safety, particularly with regard to vulnerable school children?

Monitoring of asbestos materials

Asbestos regulations impose a ‘duty to manage’ on owners and occupiers of non-domestic premises. This duty initially includes establishing whether asbestos-containing materials are present in a building and if so, keeping a record of their whereabouts and condition.

These obligations are generally met by way of asbestos management surveys, with regular reinspections taking place to manage the ongoing risk. Asbestos reinspections are generally undertaken on a yearly basis as a minimum, with previously identified ACMs being visually examined for damage and deterioration – through wear and tear or weathering, for example.

The risk of asbestos exposure for employees and visitors is then determined based on the results, but a question arises as to whether these practices are sufficiently detailed considering the nature of asbestos.

Should reinspection procedures routinely include asbestos air testing rather than just visually inspecting asbestos materials?

The danger of degraded asbestos materials

As asbestos materials degrade they can release tiny fibres into the air, which once inhaled, may cause life-threatening disease later in life. The latest figures show that 2,595 asbestos victims died from mesothelioma in 2016, with asbestos-related lung cancer deaths being placed at a similar level.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) believe asbestos-related mortality rates will fall during the next decade, but an unexpected scenario could emerge due to a combination of early asbestos exposure in schools where ongoing low-level inhalation of asbestos fibres takes place and increased life expectancies.

Asbestos materials extensively used in school buildings

Asbestos-related illness doesn’t generally manifest until several decades after the first exposure. This is why concerns are arising regarding the threat to children, given the prolific use of asbestos materials in school buildings prior to the asbestos ban in 1999.

Asbestos was used as an insulating and fireproofing material and is commonly present in classroom partition walling, ceiling and floor tiles, boiler rooms, and covering pipework around buildings.

Asbestos air testing may provide a more accurate view of the threat to health in any given area of a building, such as a school classroom or dining room. A more in-depth picture of the risk would emerge, and it’s possible that remediation works could be less costly for the local authority or building owner.

Acorn Analytical Services are professional asbestos consultants and can help you manage the risk posed by asbestos materials in the workplace. Among other services, we offer asbestos management surveys, reinspection surveys, asbestos air testing, and asbestos sample testing. Please contact one of our highly trained and experienced consultants to find out more.

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

Asbestos training tutor, Daniel Crask

Asbestos training has never been more critical for your workforce

DESPITE being banned from new buildings in 1999, asbestos is still all around us which is why Acorn Analytical Services takes its commitment to education and asbestos training so seriously. By raising awareness of the potential dangers of asbestos through our UKATA-accredited asbestos awareness training courses, we aim to protect your workforce from the dangers … Read more

Cutting corners with asbestos could be costly

Tempted to save money with asbestos management? It could prove to be a costly mistake

WITH talk of a looming financial crisis everywhere at the moment you might be tempted to cut come corners in a bid to save yourself some money. But when it comes to managing asbestos, or anything to do with health and safety, not doing things by the book also comes at a price. Ian Stone, … Read more

Asbestos is common in many older buildings

It’s been banned for over 20 years, but we’re still living with asbestos

LOOK up at any old building in any town or city near you and it’s highly likely it will contain asbestos. First used more than 4,000 years ago, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral used by early settlers in Finland to strengthen earthenware and cooking utensils. It came to Britain from Canada in the 1860s … Read more

Asbestos kills 20 tradespeople in the UK every day

Asbestos kills 20 tradespeople every day. Make sure you aren’t one of them

There is no room for complacency when it comes to handling asbestos as the latest figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show. Despite being banned in the use of new buildings since 1999, the building material, which was hugely popular in the 1950s and 1960s, is still a huge problem in older … Read more

Steve McQueen died from mesothelioma

Two cultural icons, one silent killer – mesothelioma

HOLLYWOOD actor and ‘King of Cool’ Steve McQueen and former manager of the Sex Pistols Malcolm McClaren – both global, cultural icons but, tragically, also victims of asbestos-related mesothelioma. Each year in the UK, 2,400 people – that’s six people every day – die from mesothelioma, a cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos … Read more

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma: How much do you really know about the disease which kills 2,400 people every year?

If you’ve heard of asbestos, chances are you’ve almost certainly heard of mesothelioma. But do you really know what it is and would you know how to protect yourself, your colleagues, and your loved ones from developing this silent killer in the future? What is mesothelioma? According to charity campaign ActionMeso which is run by … Read more

Sam Savage Commercial Director

Commercial Director Sam Savage talks about his first 3 weeks

Last month we announced Sam Savage had joined Acorn Analytical Services as our Commercial Director, working out of the Northampton office and covering the South of England. Sam joins the business from an another asbestos consultancy where he worked for more than 20 years, working his way up from a trainee right through to contracts … Read more

Asbestos Awareness Training

Asbestos Awareness Training – the importance of practising what we preach

At Acorn, we work hard to educate everyone about the dangers of asbestos. One of the ways we do this is through our UKATA accredited Asbestos Awareness training courses. Being a UKATA Approved Training Provider not only demonstrates that Acorn Analytical Services is committed to delivering the highest standard of asbestos training, it also means … Read more

Have you ever wondered what the consequences could be if a company fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure?

Asbestos exposure risk leads to jail sentences

Have you ever wondered what the consequences could be if a company fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure? At Acorn, we work hard to educate the public about the dangers of asbestos which remains the world’s biggest workplace killer. When asbestos is disturbed it releases tiny fibres into the air which can cause a … Read more

MPs want asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings within the next 40 years.

MPs fight for asbestos to be removed from public buildings

Last week, MPs called for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings within the next 40 years. The Government’s Work and Pensions Select Committee wants the asbestos to be removed because the substance remains the biggest workplace killer in the UK with around 5,000 deaths linked to it every year. Even though … Read more